Sunday, August 01, 2004

I love this country # 2

I was driving back to office after a student's final defense (next time, I will discuss the sad quality of students nowadays). There was this oil truck (the kind of truck with gallons of kerosene) to my right, in the midst of traffic jam. Suddenly, a 30-something man approached the truck with two plastic bags (I was so close I could see those plastic: he had bundled one after another to make them thicker). Without hesitation, he went directly to the cranes. He was ... stealing those oil! Wait, "stealing"? Not really. He did that openly! There were two policemen regulating the traffic -- the "stealing" was right within their reach. Other street users looked at him as if it was normal. Guess me the only one amazed? I was so worried that some motorcycle guy could have passed by the truck and ... drop his cigarette butt very close to the draining kerosene...

My class had just discussed the Lewis model of urban and rural labor dualism, two or three days before. That oil-stealing guy above might be a correct example of the loser in Harris-Todaro model: a rural/traditional labor migrating to urban, finding extremely high wage rate in formal sector and therefore could not afford to deserve it; finally pushed to the urban informal sector. In Debraj Ray's words, informal sector people who are "failed aspirants to the formal sector dreams". Crime is cheaper. Or, should I not call it "crime"?

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